It’s prose, not poetry. I’m sorry. But for some reason this passage from Norman Maclean’s story “A River Runs Through It” popped into my head the other day and won’t leave me alone. So, think of it as a prose poem, and enjoy.
This excerpt is at the end of the story, where Norman and his father are talking about his brother’s death:
“I’ve said I’ve told you all I know. If you push me far enough, all I really know for certain is that he was a fine fisherman.”
“You know more than that,” my father said. “He was beautiful.”
“Yes,” I said, “he was beautiful. He should have been — you taught him.”
My father looked at me for a long time — he just looked at me. So this was the last he and I ever said to each other about Paul’s death.
Indirectly, though, he was present in many of our conversations. Once, for instance, my father asked me a series of questions that suddenly made me wonder whether I understood even my father whom I felt closer to than any man I had ever known. “You like to tell true stories, don’t you?” he asked, and I answered “Yes, I like to tell stories that are true.”
Then he asked, “After you have finished your true stories sometime, why don’t you make up a story and the people to go with it?
“Only then will you understand what happened and why.
“It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us.”
Now nearly all those I loved and did not understand when I was young are dead, but I still reach out to them.
Of course, now I am too old to be much of a fisherman, and now of course I usually fish the big waters alone, although some friends think I shouldn’t. Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.
Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
I am haunted by waters.
I saw this movie in the theater when it came out, and was captivated. A friend was equally captivated, and gave me a copy of the book. I am forever grateful – it’s a lovely thing.
Hey, here’s a new blog to me: The Holly and the Ivy. That’s where Cuileann is handling this week’s Poetry Friday round-up. Go check it out – I bet other people posted some actual poetry for you.